Presenter Information

JoAnna Wurst, University of Wyoming

Department

Department of Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Ruth Toulson

Description

Memorialization — the ways that the dead are remembered and remain part of the society of the living — has long been a subject of anthro pological inquiry. More recently, anthropologists have focused on spontaneous shrines, for example the roadside temporary shrines that commemorate traumatic deaths and yellow ribbons as commentary on death in war. However, what characterizes this existing research is a focus on materiality and place. As yet, little research has been conducted on memorials that emerge on social networking sites after traumatic death. In my study, with focuses on the Facebook profiles of the deceased, I argue that these virtu al memorials contain the same characteristics as material memorials: they serve as the focus for grieving and thus accumulate memories, making visible the nature of the relationship between the living and the dead. Drawing on theoretical commentaries on th e prominence of technology in the American Life, I suggest that critics of social networking sites have under - estimated the importance of these forms of sociality.

Comments

Oral Presentation, UW Honors Program

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Virtualizing Grief: Commemorating Life and Death through Online Memorials

Memorialization — the ways that the dead are remembered and remain part of the society of the living — has long been a subject of anthro pological inquiry. More recently, anthropologists have focused on spontaneous shrines, for example the roadside temporary shrines that commemorate traumatic deaths and yellow ribbons as commentary on death in war. However, what characterizes this existing research is a focus on materiality and place. As yet, little research has been conducted on memorials that emerge on social networking sites after traumatic death. In my study, with focuses on the Facebook profiles of the deceased, I argue that these virtu al memorials contain the same characteristics as material memorials: they serve as the focus for grieving and thus accumulate memories, making visible the nature of the relationship between the living and the dead. Drawing on theoretical commentaries on th e prominence of technology in the American Life, I suggest that critics of social networking sites have under - estimated the importance of these forms of sociality.